Monday, January 28, 2013

My self esteem is based on what?

Where are you on your 'widow' journey?  Still calling yourself a widow?  Nearly eight years out,  I'd be in deep do-do if I still identified myself as the gal who lost her one and only beloved.  O.K.  For you 'lucky' widows who had decades with your spouses and are now in later life, you're not in do-do, you're in a bed of roses (I'm joking).  But I may have another half century to manage.  I feel envious of older widows who say their one love was enough for a lifetime.  I planned on getting old and gray with the guy I married.  I was 49 when I found out that wouldn't be.  My own father is still alive and living independently at 99.   I know I should be happy I have good genes but ...

We all got our pink slips, the 'former Mrs' memo.  We were on the high end of the marriage seesaw then.   BAM!  We had to put ice on our sorry behinds and hobble away.

Now, we're 'survivors', but this begs the question, "Are my scars worse than yours?"  Lots of rosy mirrors in this pit. 

We're 'heroines'.  But real heroes don't call themselves heroes.

We're 'big, beautiful babes', but chill out, that's more than strangers need to know.

These identities need to become incidental props on a journey, at least for me, moving on nearly eight years later.

So, in the interest of research, I'm embarking on an experiment.  It's not sexy, it's not a page turner, it's nothing I'm asking any one to join me on.  This is my experiment:  I'm linking my self-esteem to how effectively I say "You're welcome" to me day by day.   To how tender and nurturing I can be to an emerging self who is still blinking in the glare of sunlight off the water.

We know what  squashes our spirit - Stereotypes.  Expectations.  Pulling rank.  We also know what floats our boat.  Love, in its many guises.  We're at the helm.  Choose a helpful and fun crew.  And enjoy the journey.

 Good luck to you, my friends!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Widowhood: Part 2

I've edited this page, and added what I failed to tell you my first post:

Widowhood.  It's like a scarlet "A", only it's a black "W".  Who wants it?  Where does it lead?

Our wedding vows said: "Until death do us part".   I guess one can quibble that we haven't proof "God" directs that show, but let's assume He (or She) does. Why does God sever a wife's obligation and commitment to her husband when he dies?   God's rather intelligent.  

The former 'wife' is given permission to move on.  She is instructed to move on.  Let the past be past, and all that.  Widowhood is a passage, not a destination.  Why then, is it so darn hard?

For me, the term 'widow' felt like a warm blankie the first two years.  I was numb, angry, wretchedly sad, but being a 'widow' would elicit sympathy and that consoled me somewhat.  Following that period, in what I'm calling my 'Widowhood Part 2', widowhood felt less consoling.  More like a corset stuck in 'autotight' mode, slowly crushing me.  Life was just about putting one step in front of the other, never getting a good lungful of air.  I had to free myself from that damn corset!  Was that corset my lingering connection to the man who loved me so much?  I so want to form a genuine new connection with my new circumstances, and want what I have now.

I surprised myself when I wrote in my January 3rd post "I'd finally let him belong to the past."  Was I happy?  Happier.  I guess my job was to put him in the past, to shed that corset, and live free or die inside it.

Now back to my original  writing in this, 'Widowhood, Part 2'.

So, God, I've a new set of wants, since I've been released from my old ones.  What do You think of these?
  • I want to be female. 
  • I want to be pliant and not compliant
  • I want to answer to You
  • I want to pursue creativity
  • I want to pursue wonder
  • I want to be an idiot
  • I want to be valued
  • I want empowerment
  • I want to sink my hands into new soil
  • I want to love
  • I want to connect with the new 'he'
  • I want to see life through other people's eyes
  • I want them to see life through mine
  • I want to be deliberate and not put off life 
  • I want to live outside normal parameters 
  • Outside 'married'
  • Outside 'widow' 
  • Outside 'single'
  • But not outside this big, beautiful 'me'
Have you noticed the stirring of new wants?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Growing out of our old selves

I didn't write this story, and thank who ever did. The sculpture above was created by Elizabeth Ostrander

This story applies to everybody. 

"Along a dusty road in India there sat a beggar who sold cocoons.  A young boy watched him day after day, and the beggar finally beckoned to him.

"Do you know what beauty lies within this ugly chrysalis?  I will give you one so that you might see for yourself.  But you must be careful not to handle the cocoon until the butterfly comes out."

The boy was enchanted with his gift and hurried home to await the butterfly.  He laid the cocoon on the floor and became aware of a curious thing.  The butterfly was beating its fragile wings against the hard wall of the chrysalis until it appeared it would surely perish before it could break the unyielding prison.  Wanting only to help, the boy swiftly pried the cocoon open.

Out flopped a wet, brown, ugly thing which quickly died.

When the beggar discovered what happened, he explained to the boy, "In order for the butterfly's wings to grow strong enough to support him, it is necessary that it beat them against the walls of its cocoon.  Only by this struggle can its wings become beautiful and durable.  When you denied it the struggle, you took away its only chance for survival."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Inserting our Lives

 These are some of the words I've applied to widow:

  • Irrelevant Woman
  • Misplaced Wife
  • Has Been
  • Leftover from a Couple
  • There, There my Dear
  • Misfit
  • Nice Old Lady
  • Threatening Cougar
  • Stray Cat
  • Whiner
  • Loony Little Lady
  • Wallflower
  • Desperado
  • Sage but Sexless Woman
  • Burden
  • Lady in Waiting
  • Cat or Dog Lady
  • Brave Woman Battered by Fate
  • Calamity
  • Infection I better not Catch
  • Histrionic Loony tune
  • Example
  • Charity Case
  • Therapy Client
  • Mystery
  • Inspiration
Instead of feeling anything like these, let's show up and show 'em how it really is

Whatever we were, or are, or are becoming, let's insert ourselves into life.  Maybe this means we've finished rebuilding a life, maybe it means we're still gaining freedom from that master named 'Grief", maybe it means we simply like seeing our own reflection. 

In any case, let's do it on our own terms, not on a 'widow's' terms.

How do you see yourself today?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A - OK.... now

Let's face it, widows.  It's not our fault that we're single.  It's not our fault that we hurt.  Our particular loss is earth shattering.  If someone else understands, hallelujah!  But if they don't, shrug and love them anyway.  Expecting special treatment after say, the first year is silly.  Really...

Widowhood is lonely work.  It's supposed to be.  At the end of the day it's up to us to choose how we will go on.  

Choose life!

Easier said than done, I know.  Next to impossible in the beginning.  Pushing that huge boulder of tasks and grief up the steep, rocky hill of life leaves us wondering if we'll ever get it to the top.  My experience?    People help out.  But they have their own boulders to push.   Leave them be.  

Let them leave us to our own devices.

By golly, pushing that huge boulder up that hill one grisly step at a time made me the woman I am today.   Stronger, fitter, wiser and happier.   We've all been there.  All done the hard part.  Pushing that weight up that rocky slope.  It feels like forever.  Looking back, it wasn't such a long time.  After five years, that boulder got lighter and the ground levelled off.  After six years, no big deal.  At seven years, I was eyeing the open sea, wading in now and again.   Nice.   But I was still looking back.   Stuck and scared.   Where to head completely on my own?   In a world of two's, a bold new course: toward love that has my name, and my name alone, on it.  I don't believe this is selfish, because with that decision joy returned.   Peace, too.   Evidently I was overdue for self love.  And he would have been happy I'd finally let him belong to the past.  

Maybe the difference between the weight of grief and the freedom from it is reclaiming our own power to choose. After all, Choice was something that was stripped from us when death came.

Joy is here for us.

Why did it take me so long?  I'm slow.  Why not sooner?   Well, exactly when is 'sooner'?  Common wisdom says it takes widows five to seven years to move on.   It took me seven.  To others, it looked like I was doing well a lot sooner than I really was. So many of us put on a happy face and actually fool others into thinking we're well, because we're rather private.  Stoic.  Proud.

I decided to take my private angst public, through this blog.  The reason is my belief: God continually offers us gifts, and if I couldn't find the gift in this tragedy, I wasn't looking hard enough.   One year ago yesterday I wrote my first entry.  I posted my efforts, holding myself accountable to my readers to find the gift in my tragedy and move on.   Now I'm considering moving on from this blog.

Like Julian of Norwich, I believe that "All shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well".  Why?   Because God is love, and God lives in the present tense.   I can hold the gift of life and be filled.   No longer am I like a bucket so drained of life by grief, and so full of holes no one can console me.  I am healed.  Circumstances could at any time pierce my bucket with more holes.  I hope in the future I can be more resilient.

Here is what I had to do

  • Recognize that I was that empty bucket full of holes, and nobody could fill my emptiness no matter how much love and attention they poured in.
  • Plug the holes in my bucket myself.  Do this by giving up the illusion that all shall be well only if time reverses itself.   Or if only people would be more generous.
  • Fill my bucket with all manner of things - a few old things, but mostly new skills, new attitudes, new friends, new surroundings, new interests.  
  • Share my journey publicly on this blog.
Every day is a challenge.  For everybody.   

Good luck.  God, and Love, is with you. 

P.S. Please don't hesitate to share in my comment section.  I'll write back!